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Voices and Visions ch 10 - Night Vigils

Rating: PG-13
Rating Warning: There is discussion between Simon and Jayne about the possibility that River was sexually abused while in the Academy. It is theory only and discussed in the most circumspect terms I could use. NOTHING Graphic.
Pairings: Jayne/River; Mal/Inara; Simon/Kaylee; Zoë/memories of Wash
Beta Magic: My Magic Beta Lady is ceslas **hugs**
Previous Chapters:Ch. 1 - Through The Keyhole Of Time; Ch. 2 - Tentative Beginnings; Ch. 3 - Ghosts; Ch. 4 - Voices Of The Living; Ch. 5 - Battles Won Battles Lost; Ch. 6 - Caught In The Moment; Ch. 7 - Like Puzzle Pieces; Ch. 8 - In Dreams; Ch. 9 - Bridges And Storms

Voices And Visions

By lattelady6

Ch 10 - Night Vigils


River was dreaming and it was wonderful. Each time a scary monster tried to creep into her thoughts, it was pushed away by the powerful man whose body was half covering hers and in whose mind she’d taken refuge.

“Jayne,” she whispered in her sleep and tried to move closer, but she was already wedged under him as far as she could get.

“Shhh, Babe, sleep, ya gotta rest.” He’d been watching over her for the last hour, keepin’ her warm and close.

A smile crossed his face at the unusual thing he was doin’. It was a first for him, just like all the firsts she’d had that day. He’d never just held a woman as she slept. ‘Course that was ‘cause he hadn’t been with anything but whores since Ellie Hansen the summer he was fourteen. Ellie had been older, and shown him what his body was capable ‘a doing. Those months long ago in her pa’s barn she’d taught him to take his pleasure and be sure a woman got hers too. Just like she’d taught him the following fall, when she ran off and got hitched to Hank Wilson, that sexin’ was just that and nothin’ more. Thanks ta her, he always had his pick ‘a trim. The credits would lure ‘em to his bed the first time, but his skills had given him a well earned reputation that allowed him to be a mite choosy.

This holdin’ thing that he was doing with River was somethin’ he hadn’t been interested in tryin’ with the other women he’d slept with. It wasn’t about sex, if’n it was he’d be able to say he’d felt-up Crazy-girl in the cargo bay and be on his merry, but the words stuck in his throat. This was personal and there was no avoidin’ it like he had in the past, when he’d skedaddle after payin’ his money and takin’ his pleasure. He tried to tell himself that it was ‘cause no credits had changed hands, and though it had been mighty pleasurable to touch Girlie’s softer parts, he still had a fierce ache in his pants. But that wasn’t it and all this thinkin’ was making him hurt worse, ‘cause his head was spinnin’.

He yawned sleepily and rested his forehead on the mat beside hers, his nose buried in her hair. It smelled like rain, and the girlie hair soap she used. He remembered that smell from as long ago as Ariel. Jayne was a man who used all ‘a his senses ta stay alive, but scent was an odd one. It could trigger a memory quicker ‘n anythin’.

He let himself doze, but wouldn’t relax enough to sleep. He was on guard and listenin’ for any sound that was outta the ordinary. He ignored the little voice that said if he slept; the night would be over too quickly. That was a sentimental thought. He was a big mean man who didn’t think sissified things like that. If he were thinkin’ those thoughts though, he’d also be thinkin’ he wanted the minutes to last forever, ‘cause they were all he was gonna get if he wanted their friendship ta survive what he was feelin’.
…………………………………………
Simon Tam kissed Kaylee Frye on her freckled nose and slid out of bed as quietly as he could.

“You okay, honey?” her voice was hoarse from lack of sleep. It was late and he’d kept her up most of the night before, not that she was complainin’. Fact was she was thinkin’ on sendin’ a thank-you note to his MedAcad, for all them anatomy classes.

“I need to check on Inara. This is the first time someone has slept in my infirmary and I haven’t been a few feet away in the dorm.”

“Ya got that portable thingy ta keep track of her vital signs.” Kaylee snuggled under the blankets and pressed her nose to the pillow where Simon’s scent lingered beside her. “’Sides the Captain is with her.”

“Precisely,” the Doc grunted as he pulled on his sleep pants and grabbed a shirt but didn’t bother to button it. “I have no desire to clean up the bloody mess they would leave behind if they decide to go at one another.”

“Simon,” she giggled and her eyes sparkled. “If those two ever really started going at each other, it’d to ‘em a lot of good. Might just cool their tempers some.”

“Why Miss Frye, are you speculating on your Captain’s sex life?” He put one knee on her bed and leaned over her with a hand on either side of her delicious body.

“Now why would I do that? Since I’ve finally got one ‘a my own.” She grinned and ran her fingers over his well defined chest. She’d been pleasantly surprised to discover the strength and muscle definition hidden under his fancy clothes.

“Yes you do.” He gave her one last kiss and headed for the ladder, before he gave in and crawled back in where he really wanted to be. “How did I ever get so lucky to find you?”

“The Rim’s full ‘a girls like me.”

“No,” he looked over his shoulder shaking his head. “No where else. Not in the Rim, the Core, or Earth-That-Was. There’s only one Kaylee.”

“Oh Simon,” her voice quavered. “You say the prettiest things. Now go on and see ta your patient. I ain’t goin’ anywhere.” He made her heart leap, and she was always afraid that one day she’d wake up and discover it was all a dream. Either they would be back to the really bad times, after Inara left, when the Captain had been so angry and hurt it made the air stick in her lungs. Or she would discover they were still on Miranda, fighting and dying; only this time, River wouldn’t save them. This time the Reavers would win.
……………………………………
Simon’s first stop was the bridge. He never told anyone, not even Kaylee because he believed what he was doing for Zoë fell under the ‘medical confidentiality code of ethics’. The First-Mate was sitting where he expected her to be, in the pilot’s seat, with her feet up on the consul. “It’s time you headed for your bunk.”

“Not tonight, Doc.” She kept looking straight ahead. He hardly saw her right hand move, but the next thing he knew, he was staring into the barrel of her gun. “Just head on out of here real quiet like. You want to talk about this tomorrow, fine, but like I said, not tonight.”

He moved behind her to the lockers and pulled out the last blanket that was left in there. “At least stay warm. This ship gets cold on night running.” He draped it across her lap and stood staring at her for a moment. “I’m not that inflexible.” He nodded toward her gun before he turned and walked down the corridor leaving Zoë to her solitude, hoping it would help.

She set her gun on the deck and let her head fall back in the chair. He was right, bringing her weapon along had probably been excessive, but her day had been too difficult to let him drag her off to her bunk, despite their unspoken agreement that he set boundaries when she didn’t. She wrapped the blanket tightly around her and pressed her arms against her body as she listened to his receding footsteps moving toward the stairs leading to the cargo bay. She knew the young man had her best interests at heart, but tonight she wasn’t moving, no matter who ordered it.

Zoë cocked her chin at an angle so the back of the seat would support her head, but she could still stare out at the spectacular view of the Black filled with the stars Wash loved so much. “Baby, I miss you,” she whispered and let tears that only River had seen, run down her face.

“But I’m right here, Lambie-toes, right inside you.” A soft voice filled her mind. “And I always will be.”

“I know, but it’s hard,” she sniffed quietly while she held a plastic T-Rex against her neck. “Today was hard, coming back here and you not being here. I wanted to tell you all about it, like I always did. You made the bad things bearable and always found something funny in what we did. You made me laugh.”

“I’m here, now. Did you do some good crime?” She knew Wash’s voice was only wishful thinking, but she was torn up more than anyone realized. She needed these odd moments though she’d never admit it to anyone, not even River. They were all that was keeping her together.

Zoë let her mind move back over the day. She had been fine during the difficult job with Mal, River and Jayne. The weather conditions had been terrible, but they’d survived worse. As she thought about the job they’d just pulled, she could almost hear Wash’s laugh echoing through her mind. It brought a smile to her lips. Yeah it was comical, now that they were dry, warm and off that gorramn moon. They must have looked a sight when they pulled into the cargo bay.

Remembering their arrival made her gasp, because she realized that she’d forgotten again, forgotten while out on the job, that Wash was dead. She had been fine as they’d scooted through the bay doors. There’d only been the smallest tickle of doubt when she’d heard the Captain talking to Inara on the communicator. Something had crept along the edges of her mind, a memory that she had been trying to keep out.

She could see herself as she’d turned around and had seen Jayne sitting in the back of the mule. He had been wearing his large coat and a shit eating grin, while everyone had stared at the ridiculous picture he’d made with River buried under his drover. Laughter had begun to bubble up inside of her, but Zoë had suddenly clamped down on it. One second she had been thinking, ‘Wash has gotta see this.’ The next she had remembered he was dead. It had been like a blow to her heart.

“Oh, God Baby, I’d forgotten,” she sat frozen, gasping for breath with both hands pressed tightly to her face. “How could I have forgotten?” The tall dark warrior woman who was always so strong for everyone else let her emotions go and cried ragged sobs.

“It’s all right, Wifey, it’s all right.” The voice inside her head soothed.

“How can it be all right if you’re not here with me?” She finally asked the question that she’d been afraid to ask anyone.

“But I am here, I told you that, Zoë. Nothing will ever make me leave you, but you have a life to lead, one filled with plenty of crime and out-smarting the Alliance, just the way you like it. You’ll have laughter and fun again.”

“And a child, Wash?” she muttered, still trying to hide the truth from herself.

“No, Baby, I’m sorry. That’s the one thing I’d change about our life if I could. I was always so afraid of being left alone without you; it never entered my mind that it would be the other way around. I know you wanted a child.”

Zoë relaxed and let the cramps that she’d been trying to ignore for the last hour tell their own story. She’d hoped that when her body hadn’t returned to its regular cycle after Miranda, it was because she’d conceived that last night they’d spent on Haven, but now she knew the truth: the changes had only been due to pain, grieving and shock. After two months, her body was in the process of resetting its hormonal clock.

“It’s all right, Wash.” And she knew it was. “I finally understand why you were reluctant to start a family. I wouldn’t want to raise a child without you. Besides I’m not good with children.”

She could hear his chuckle as she curled into his chair. “You’ll get plenty of practice at being Aunt Zoë. You just wait, in the next few years, that old boat is going to be overrun with children. You’re gonna love each of them and they’re gonna love you.”

“Now I know you’re only a hallucination,” she whispered as tears rolled down her face. “Mal would never let children on his ship.”

“He’s not going to have a choice.” Wash grinned back at her in her mind, as if he knew something she didn’t. “You’re sleepy, Lambie-toes. Close your eyes, I’m watching over you. I’ve got nothing else to do while I wait, but I’m a patient man. I waited for you once, I can do it again.”
……………………………………………………….
The Doctor headed down the main stairs to the cargo bay. It was almost completely dark except for the dim emergency light that someone had forgotten to turn off. If it hadn’t been for that, he’d never have noticed Jayne sprawled face-down on one of the large mats the crew used for sparring.

“Jayne, wake–up.” Simon knelt beside him and touched an orange T-shirt covered shoulder. It was then he noticed River in the shadows, asleep on her back practically buried under the far side of the Merc’s body. The Doctor’s stomach plummeted and his hand froze.

“I ain’t asleep and I’d advise ya not to touch me when I am. It’s a good way to end up dead.” The gruff older man whispered as he lifted his head and stared the younger one in the eyes. He figured he was gonna get a tongue lashin’ any second and maybe even punched. He just hoped it was done quietly. He didn’t want River frightened awake by her brother yellin’.

“I…ah…believed it was safe since, you didn’t have a weapon.” Simon spoke in a hushed tone. A million thoughts filled his mind, as he tried to understand what was going on and how he felt about it. Old impressions of Jayne Cobb warred with new ones. All of it was tainted by an older brother’s knee-jerk reaction to finding his younger sister in a compromising position with any man.

“Ya think I couldn’t kill with my bare hands, or that I wouldn’t if somethin’ worth protectin’ was threatened?”

“I see.” Simon sat beside the Mercenary nodding his head. He’d expected the big man to take an offensive stance and be his usual loud, rude self. The quiet, almost possessive tone made the Doc take a second look and it washed away the dry insult that had been on the tip of his tongue. “Is River all right?”

“I think so.” Jayne slid to his knees hatin’ ta pull away from her softness, but he knew his time was up. “Girlie’d had a tough day, but she got some things figured out.” He couldn’t take his eyes off her. She was so ruttin’ pretty, but her brother was here and it was right that the Doc take over.

“Hmmm,” River began to mutter, and she reached out for the man who had been beside her seconds ago. Once her warmth was taken away and the skin to skin contact that had given her comfort disappeared, her mind was flooded with chaotic emotions coming from the men sitting close to her. “Jayne?”

“Right here,” he leaned over her to whisper in her ear, while he ran a hand along her arm and wrapped his fingers around her wrist. “Right, beside ya, Babe.”

Simon didn’t know what had been said to his sister but he could tell it calmed her instantly. His eyes moved from the rumpled man whose shirt was askew and the slim woman sleeping pressed against his thigh. Her top was at an odd angle and her hair was messed, but it was the whisker burns on her pale neck and cheeks that told the real story.

“She shouldn’t be sleeping here.” Simon looked around the cavernous room. It was easier to state the obvious than to force his mind to think about the implication of those reddened marks, though it was something he had to deal with and soon.

“We were talkin’.” Though Jayne was speaking quietly to the Doc, he didn’t take his eyes off River. She looked delicate and young. He unconsciously reached out with the hand that wasn’t holdin’ hers and ran it through her hair. “She didn’t want ta sleep, worried that those nightmares ‘a hers wouldn’t leave her be.” He shifted his gaze to the other man, hoping he could make him understand. “I promised ta keep ‘em away. She was thinkin’ on Miranda and the battle on Mr. Universe’s moon. It haunts her, what them Blue Hands turned her into.” He looked at Simon knowing the Doc needed to know.

“She’s won’t talk about those things to me. I’ve tried, but I don’t want to push, it agitates hers. It’s good to know you’re willing to listen.” The picture suddenly crystallized. He wondered how he’d missed it, and how long it had been going on. Jayne and River hadn’t just been building a working relationship or friendship. It was more than that, but how much more he didn’t know, but as he watched the big man gently touch the sleeping woman, he was beginning to suspect. “I think I see.”

“Do ya, Doc?” All the Merc could do was shake his head, ‘cause he couldn’t make any sense outta what was goin’ on.

“Uhhemm….I’ve got the key code to the shuttle, would you carry her to bed?” Simon got to his feet and headed toward the steps. There were a few things the men needed to clear up between them and it couldn’t happen with River sleeping less than a foot away.

“Ya want me ta carry your little sis ta bed?”

“If you don’t mind?” the Doc turned, understanding the confusion in the other’s voice. “I’m not sure I’m quite up to it.” He ran his hand over the incision scar left from his wound on Miranda. It was a lie and they both knew it. Jayne had been present the day before when he’d carried Kaylee up the same set of stairs without a twinge.

“I ain’t leavin’ her alone in there.” The Mercenary challenged.

“All…right.” Simon nodded, waiting for the anger he knew he should be feeling to consume him, but it never came, instead he felt resigned. He’d controlled River’s life for the year after he’d gotten her out of the Academy. The result had been a mentally unstable young woman who was unhappy and frightened a good deal of the time. In the two months since Miranda she’d been better than he could have ever hoped for. It appeared that while he’d been recovering from a Reaver blast to the abdomen, she had been retaking her life. It wasn’t his place to argue with her choices, as long as they were really her choices. “I’ll bring the mat. We can rig a pallet on the floor for tonight. But I would appreciate a few words with you once you get her settled.”

“Doc…Why ain’t ya…?” Jayne looked at the younger man with doubt. He wasn’t sure what was happening, but he agreed, the cargo bay weren’t no place for Girlie to be sleepin’. It had been the only thing he could come up with and still remain with her as he’d promised.

“Not now, once you get her settled.” Simon grabbed the smaller mat that was still rolled up against the wall and hefted it to his shoulder with ease, while Jayne reached down and gathered River in his arms.

“Where are we going?” she murmured and curled against the Merc’s warmth; her arm reached around his neck wanting to keep him as close as possible.

“Just puttin’ ya ta bed. Hard floor is not a place for ya to be sleepin’.” He pulled her tight against him.

“Don’t leave me.” She pushed her face into the curve of his neck needing as much contact with his skin as possible. “You promised…” her voice drifted off as she fell back to sleep. She was warm and safe in Jayne’s arms. She was engulfed in him as she’d been earlier in the day. His presence quieted her mind and made her separate and whole.

“Ain’t gonna do that. Once I get ya settled, gotta have a few words with that brother ‘a yours, but I’ll leave the shuttle door open and only be a few feet away.” He carried her up the stairs.

Simon already had the door to Inara’s old shuttle open. The mat he’d brought with him was sitting inside the door. He’d gone ahead of River and Jayne as much to give himself time to think, as to get his sister’s bed turned down.

Everything had changed since Miranda, but the Doc thought the physical changes were the most evident in the shuttle. For the first year he’d lived on Serenity, it had been hung with richly colored drapes and a sumptuous large bed had been the focal point of the room. It had epitomized a Companion. In the four months Inara had been gone it had been a lost forlorn place, but now it was nothing more than what it was supposed to be: an escape shuttle. There was a single cot and stored boxes on the deck. The only reminder that a member of the powerful Guild had practiced here, was the slight scent of incense and jasmine that still lingered in the air.

As Simon stood back and watched Jayne carry River through the door, he wondered why he’d seen the changes in the shuttle and missed them in these two people. He tried to watch them with clinical detachment but it was hard, as the Mercenary carefully lowered the sleeping woman to the bed and with gentle hands, pulled the covers over her slim form.

“Jayne,” River whispered, never waking, but reaching for him anyway.

“Go back ta sleep,” he murmured and ruffled her hair. His large callused fingers moved along her scalp, automatically seeking her scars in a fruitless attempt to rub them away.

The younger man couldn’t take it any longer. His stomach was tied in knots and he felt his detachment slipping, so he turned and headed out the hatch. Taking quick deep breaths he reminded himself that he could do this. He had to do this.

Moments later the Merc walked out of the shuttle, but he left the door open as he’d said he would. His hands were stuffed in his pockets and he wore a black scowl on his face. Simon was sitting on the top step leading down to the cargo bay. “Whattya want, Doc?”

“What do I want?” he gasped. “The list is endless: an infirmary that would at least bring the standard of care on this ship into this century; Wash and Book to be alive; Zoë’s pain to… everyone’s pain to lessen; my sister’s brain to be whole and intact.” His voice had gotten higher and louder as he rattled off his list.

“Easy there, sound travels through the floorin’ and pipe-work ‘a this old boat.” Jayne sat on the step three feet away from the younger man. “Those ‘er things we’d all like, though since you’ve been doin’ the doctorin’ I don’t have any argument ‘bout the infirmary. Now why don’t ya tell me what’s really got ya all riled up, ‘cause I think it’s a mite closer at hand than all them things.”

For once Simon let go of his Core training and didn’t try to couch his words in polite niceties. “What’s going on between you and my sister?”

“We’re friends, partners, like Mal and Zoë.” He knew even as he said it, that there was more to his relationship with River than he was lettin’ on.

“I don’t believe the Captain ever gave Zoë abrasions on her neck and cheeks.” The Doc glared at the older man’s confused look. “Maybe you’re more familiar with the term whisker burn?”

“Okay, I kissed her but…” Weren’t no way he was gonna admit that she’d kissed him back. Just thinkin ‘bout that kiss sent blood rushin’ places he needed to stay calm if he was gonna make it through this without the Doc takin’ a punch at him.

“Jayne, stop!” Simon held up his hand. “Spare me the details. I’m intelligent enough to know that if she had been opposed to it or felt threatened, she’d have taken you down in a Capital City minute…”

“T’wouldn’t ‘a been the first time.”

“Well yes, but what you need to understand is that she’s still…I hope…I don’t think they touched her that way.” The doctor in him wondered, while the older brother knew that in order to keep his sanity, he had to believe that the Alliance hadn’t used her as he’d seen another girl used. “Sexually she’s still innocent…I…ah…believe…and you’re much more experienced than she is.”

“I been with plenty ‘a trim in my time, but I’ve always steered clear ‘a the kind ya…gotta…convince…ta…” Jayne’s thought process came to a halt as it sunk in exactly what the Doc had been dancin’ ‘round with his careful wordin’. “You thought them Blue Hands was usin’ her like a whore?” he spit out the words, hard and dark like the images that had been created in his mind.

“Sexual abuse was my first thought when I decoded her letters. ‘They’re hurting us. Get me out.’ That’s all it said. River was a beautiful fourteen year-old child. How else could they be hurting her? Nothing else made any sense. Even now after all this time and everything that I’ve seen, I have trouble believing…understanding…what was done to her brain.” Simon closed his eyes overwhelmed with sorrow.

“You make it sound like ya’d almost prefer they’d used her that way, than what they done ta her.”

“No!” he gasped. “No…what I would prefer is that she is happy and as whole as she can be, no matter what happened.” He squinted at the older man and balled his hands into fists. “Don’t you understand? That’s why I didn’t contest it when she wanted to help out with the crime; and that’s why you and I are sitting here right now and there isn’t a gun in my hand.”

Jayne was gettin’ a mighty uncomfortable feeling from what the Doc was tellin’ him. There had to be more. “What ain’t ya tellin’ me? It ain’t somethin’ you can hide under that confidentiality go se ya trot out so often. ‘Cause you ain’t sure and you’re always sure when it comes to the goings-on in the infirmary.”

“There was a girl in the Emergency Room. I was the attending on-call that night. I’m not sure how she was even able to walk in the door. To say she’d been used badly would be an understatement. We’d just begun treating her when three Special Unit Alliance guards showed up. They whisked her away before we could do much of anything. When I tried to stop them they assured me she was being taken to a private facility and due to her VIP status they wanted any records that had been created to be destroyed.”

“You thought that’s what had happened to River and didn’t tell no one?”

“I hadn’t decoded River’s letters until two days after I took care of that patient. At the time I believed what I was told. It made sense. I’d seen it happen before to a young lady I knew from school. I thought she was some high ranking official’s daughter and they were trying to hide what had been done to her. I guess I was looking for something that would make me feel better about not being able to give her the care she needed. I checked the next day, and all records had been removed, permanently. If someone had the money and power to do that without leaving so much as a trace, on the Cortex, they also had the ability to hunt down whoever had hurt her and be sure that they died a lingering death.”

“Unless they was the ones doing the abusin’.”

“There were no signs of long term abuse, or I never would have let her go, but you are correct. I was still very naive at that point. Two days later the picture changed. I had worked out River’s code. I told our parents about the letters, but they refused to believe. The way they brushed it aside I knew it wouldn’t be any use to tell them about a patient who I couldn’t prove had ever existed. They were so much a part of the texture of the Alliance that they couldn’t see what was in front of them.” Simon buried his face in his hands. “For two years I had nightmares about the stranger I’d cared for, but she always had my sister’s face…”

“Easy there, Doc,” Jayne growled. Just the thought that anyone might have hurt River made him want to hit somethin’. “She hadn’t been kissed by a man afore, leastways not one who…ah…well…” He shrugged his big shoulders. “I think ya get my meanin’. ’Sides she said some thing and the way she acted…” He was tryin’ to reassure the girl’s brother but his insides were quakin’ somethin’ fierce. “She’s gotta be…” he whispered not aware he’d said it out loud.

“From what I learned the day we broke her out, I believe they were more interested in her capabilities as a fighter and increasing her intuitiveness to the point that she became a full out reader.” Simon tried not to remember how his sister had looked when he’d gone in and gotten her out of that nightmare of a facility.

“I hope you’re gorramn right.” The big man glared and muttered to himself. “Bad enough what they done ta her, but ta use a child like that.”

The Doc was fascinated by the Mercenary’s response to all of this. It was becoming more and more evident that the big man had strong feelings toward River. It made it easy to be able to talk about all these things that had been boiling up in him for a long time. “It’s just that…I feared for her physical safety for so long…”

“You’re the ruttin’ doctor! I know ya gave her a physical when we finally got those Reavers behind us and off ‘a Whitefall. Ya made a big enough fuss ‘bout it. Isn’t that somethin’ ya should ‘a checked?” The Merc felt a gnawing deep inside. He knew River had acted innocent, but what if those bastards had done things to her and she didn’t remember?

Simon blushed and looked away. “Yes….But Serenity isn’t equipped for what I would have needed to complete the exam. I had hoped to do a quick scan of her entire body on…a…well when I had a chance.”

“I messed that up for you good and proper.” Jayne shook his head. “You’re talkin’ ‘bout Ariel ain’t ya?”

“That was a year ago, it’s in the past.” Simon sat slumped on the steps, exhausted from lack of sleep and the emotionally wrenching conversation.

“That’s what she says too.” The Merc nodded toward the shuttle.

“Well she’s usually right.” He shifted and looked at the older, tougher man. “I’m sorry I laid these worries on you. I’ve never spoken to anyone about them…”

“She weren’t hurt like that!” He growled wanting desperately to believe it. “I would ‘a known. I would ‘a felt somethin’. Look Doc, I know ya don’t want the details and I wouldn’t give ‘em to ya anyway…but it was only a couple ‘a kisses…” Jayne’s mind froze refusing to think ‘bout the implications of what he’d learned. It was easier to explode ‘bout what he should ‘a been worrying ‘bout. “And why the gorramn hell ain’t ya all worked up that ya found us like we was? I’m old enough to be her ruttin’ pa.”

“Somehow it’s lost its importance in the big scheme of things,” Simon sighed and let his head fall back. “About finding you like that?” he shrugged. “It was upsetting, I’m her brother and if I had my way, she’d be kept in a nunnery until she’s fifty, but as I already told you, if River hadn’t wanted you there, I’d have found your body broken and bleeding on that floor.”

“Ain’t ya gonna take one ‘a your sharp doctor knives to me, or at least threaten to. This don’t make no sense, you bein’ all calm like.”

“I’m not all that calm…but I trust my sister.” He was beginning to get a headache. “The age difference doesn’t bother me, for two reasons. First, and most importantly, as I told you once before, they robbed her of her youth. River may be eighteen and look it, but she’s far older…far older…” his voice trailed off as he looked into the distance and sighed. “Then there is the easier reason for me to accept. It’s not that unusual in society on Core worlds for a man to be a good number of years older than a woman. The marriage contract my parents tried to arranged for my sister was with a man in his late thirties. It was a great disappointment to my father when she refused the gentleman. He had holdings that father’s business had been trying to acquire for a few years.”

“He was gonna sell his daughter? Sorry, Doc, but from our little talk tonight, you make the Rim sound downright civilized compared to that world you lived in.”

“It’s much freer. My sister tried to exert her free will and she ended up being sent to the Academy. There are times I wonder…” Simon pulled on his ear, but shook his head at the thought. It was too preposterous to accept. “No…no…he wouldn’t have, no matter how angry he was about that marriage contract.”

“You’re thinkin’ that hundan of a pa ya got did it on purpose.” Jayne had an urge to kill the senior Tam.

“He…I don’t know, but if he did, he didn’t realize the extent of what could or would be done to her. My parents were very conscious of their social standing. A crazed killer would not have given them something to boast about at dinner parties.”

“Mal and Zoë have been right all along.” Jayne rested his elbows on his knees and looked out across the bay. “I always looked at the Alliance as a pain in the ass, but they’re much more than that. Miranda was bad enough, but I guess ya got ta feel it personal like, for it ta really make ya know how bad it is.”

“Yes, back to the personal,” Simon sighed hating to bring this up. “I’ve seen how you are with woman. It can’t just be the credits you pay them. I’ve seen seasoned working girls leave a customer’s side and go to you. I realize that mean as a rattlesnake is your usual personality, but you seem to be able to access some hidden charisma when you choose, especially when there is a woman involved. River is young and…as we both believe, inexperienced. Don’t manipulate her…give her time…be sure…”

“Are you sayin’ I can sex up your little sis?” The Merc’s mouth dropped open and he wasn’t sure if he wanted to hit the man or thank him.

“I most assuredly am not! I am saying that when…no if…you ever have that particular honor that you make sure you’re making love to her and not just ‘sexin’ her up’.” The Doc knew he was blushing but he didn’t care. This was a conversation that he’d never imagined having, but realized it should have taken place a few weeks ago. “From your surprised expression I can only assume that you didn’t know there was a difference. But there is, I know, but I never experienced it until very recently myself.” A gentle smile crossed his face when he thought about the woman who was sleeping in the bunk they’d been sharing for the last week. “It’s why I waited so long with Kaylee. It was easier to let everyone think I was a boob and no good with women, than to do what I really wanted to do and take a chance she’d be badly hurt.”

“Doc, ya don’t got anything to worry about.” Jayne thought of slim delicate River and how wonderful it had felt to press her body against his and how wrong he believed it to be. “I ain’t gonna hurt her. If’n I was gonna, it would ‘a happened tonight.”

Simon sat thinking, running the Merc’s words over and over in his head. Things weren’t adding up. The other man was usually easy to deal with because everything was out there in the open to be seen. But tonight there were hidden currents and the man was being almost discrete. The Doc knew he was going to regret this, but he loved his sister too much to keep his thoughts to himself.

“Jayne I think you need to give yourself more credit and look a bit deeper at the feelings behind your actions.” Simon leaned his cheek on one fist, his elbow balanced on his knee, as he studied the big man three feet away. “I may be from the Core and I know you think I’m pretty stupid about many things, but I know how a man touches a woman he desires.”

“I…ah…” The Merc couldn’t think. He was sure he’d been careful.

“Don’t…even try and deny it. I know what I saw.” He stood and nodded toward the bay where he’d found them. “In eighteen months I’ve never seen you put aside something you wanted because it would inconvenience or hurt someone else. Do yourself and River a favor and figure out why you did so tonight, or any of the other times in the last few weeks you could have probably scratched that particular itch.”

“She ain’t an itch! What kinda brother are ya to call your little sis somethin’ like that?” Jayne exploded. “Girlie isn’t something I can take a quick scratch at and have go away!”

“Exactly,” the Doctor smiled. “It’s getting late and I need to check on Inara, which is why I’m here in the first place.” He headed down the stairs, but stopped because he had one more thing to say. Again it went under the category of I’m going to hate myself in the morning, but he’d gone this far. “You know it’s not the end of worlds and all their moons.”

“What ain’t?” The big gruff man scowled.

“To care more about a woman than you do about yourself.” Simon decided that the pained shocked expression on Jayne’s face went a long way toward making-up for what he feared the future would bring, if the big man took his advice to heart.

“I don’t care for nobody but myself! Gorram stupid Core docs and their gou pi ideas,” Jayne muttered to the background sound of light laughter that disappeared from the bay as the Doc moved into the lounge.
……………………………………………….
Simon looked through the window anxious to check his patient against the readout of Inara’s vitals on the large monitor on the wall. His practiced eye told him the machine wasn’t lying to him, nor was his hand-held version.

After he’d finished the quick knit repair to her ribs, he’d not only bound her upper torso like before, but had also secured her left arm to her side. She hadn’t been pleased when she’d awakened from the anesthesia, but he had decided to take no chances this time. She’d been darn lucky not to have ended up with permanent disfigurement below her left breast. It wouldn’t have been much, but considering her profession it could have been a disaster if she ever decided to return to an active status and booked clients again.

“She doin’ all right, Doc?” Mal whispered as he stretched on the sofa and got to his feet.

“I only kept her there because I gave her a smoother so she’d sleep. It may have been overkill with the anesthesia she had earlier, but I didn’t want her moving around tonight. I wanted to be able to monitor her and I can do that from anywhere in the ship.” He put the clip-on version of the read-outs back onto the waistband of his sleep pants. “These things are good, but I like to check the patient against the numbers as well.”

All the Captain could do was watch the woman sleeping on the other side of the glass. “Why’d she wait so gorramn long to let you fix it? Fact is, why the ruttin’ hell didn’t she get herself patched up like the rest of us on that gorramn Alliance hospital ship?”

“I can’t answer those questions.” Simon wasn’t about to tell Mal that this was the second time he’d repaired Inara’s ribs. “Were you planning on sleeping there all night?”

“Yeah…I…uh…”

“You can’t say you fell asleep reading one of Jayne’s gun magazines, because you didn’t bring one or…no one planted…one…there.” Suddenly his sister’s confused look and Jayne’s over-acting about the magazine last week, made sense. Yes, he surely should have had that little talk with the Merc weeks ago.

“No it wasn’t that…” It was obvious that Mal was focused on the sleeping woman.

“You can go in and sit with her if you like.”

“She asked me not to keep digging at her…I want her…”

“We all know you want her,” Simon couldn’t keep from chuckling as the older man glared at him.

“You lookin’ to get punched again?” His eyes were blue steel and as dangerous as the Doc had ever seen them. “I was gonna say before you went all rude like and interrupted me, that I want her to feel free on Serenity.”

“Do you know how many nights she sat by your side? I can talk about those because I wasn’t anybody’s doctor then, just a patient, like you.” He was angry and didn’t understand it, but tonight the usually crude Merc had shown more sensitivity than Mal was showing now. It felt like they’d flown into an alternate universe somewhere.

“That’s crazy. When I woke up after surgery, she wasn’t there. It was River sittin’ ‘tween us. She’s the one who told me I was gonna be all right.”

“You think River, as frightened of the Alliance as she was after that battle, spent the night in the infirmary with us? It was all Inara. Inara hadn’t changed out of the clothes she’d worn in the fight. From what the med-tech told me, she never left the waiting area while they operated on you. They couldn’t get her to leave long enough be examined. She wouldn’t take any food or anything to drink. All she did was sit there. Once you were in recovery, she used all the influence she had as a member of the Companions Guild so she could be with you. I know, I saw her. You woke up once, but must not remember it. It was only after she knew you were going to live that she let River take over for a few hours.”

“Gorramnit, why wouldn’t she tell me? Why’s she been hiding things…?” Suddenly Mal remembered holding ‘Nara on Miranda, outside of the rescue and research vessel where they’d first viewed the chip that told about the destruction of the people on that planet. She’d been in pieces and asking him for help. “I conjure I’ve known what the Alliance is capable of since a few years before Serenity Valley, you’ve known for at least the last two years, but ‘Nara…she just found out. It’s kinda like suddenly loosing gravity, she don’t know which way is up.” He reached down and took his blanket to wrap around his shoulders. “I’m thinkin’ she could use a hand ta hold onto so she doesn’t wake up all confused like.”

“One other thing, Captain.” Simon stopped the man as he was about to open the door to the infirmary. “Tomorrow morning, if you see Jayne leaving the shuttle where River is sleeping, please don’t shoot him.”

Hao le, Doc you are sayin’ that my hired muscle and your mei mei, are in a shuttle…alone…at night and it’s all right with you?”

“My sister alone with any man, at any time, isn’t all right.” Simon ran his hand through his hair. “She…River…doesn’t want my help when she has nightmares. I think my worry only makes things worse for her when she wakes-up screaming. Inara had been the one who looked out for her while we were all recovering. Since then Jayne has been helping too.”

“’Nara had mentioned somethin’ about that ta me.” Mal nodded and looked at the sleeping woman. “Is River okay tonight?”

“When she has those nightmares she usually kicks the punching bag until she feels better. She can’t do that with someone in the infirmary.” Simon nodded toward his patient. “But my sister wants very badly to be treated like a normal person. So she’s toughing it out. Tonight I found her asleep on a mat in the cargo bay. Jayne was watching over her.”

“That don’t sound like normal person stuff, especially when ya consider Jayne was in on it. How’d they get to the shuttle?”

“I suggested it. Beside the help with the nightmares…I’ve seen some things…he’s good to her…it lead me to believe he…cares about her? I know she’s safe with him and cares about him.”

“You remember this is Jayne we’re talking ‘bout. We’re not on the normal people anymore. I ‘spose I can always wait and throw him out the airlock, if she doesn’t kill him when he hurts her.”

“Actually, I’m more worried that it’ll be the other way around. River is tougher than she looks…”

“…And Jayne not so much,” the Captain finished up for him. He’d noticed another side to his Merc since Miranda. Hell, they’d all developed ‘other sides’ since Miranda. Why should Jayne be any different? “I’m goin’ in here.” He nodded towards the infirmary. “You should go back ta Kaylee.”

Mal moved quietly into the room where ‘Nara was sleeping. He grabbed a chair and slid it next to her, as he sat down he took her right hand in his and rested his head beside her.

“Mal,” she muttered and fought to get her eyes open, but her lids were too heavy and she lost her battle

“Right here, darlin’,” he whispered. “I got ya. Just hold on and sleep.”

Her only response was to squeeze his hand slightly then fall back to sleep. He sat and watched her, counting her breaths and enjoying being close to her with no one around to see.
……………………………………………….
Jayne got up and headed to the shuttle. Simon had rattled his calm in more ways than he thought possible and he didn’t like it one bit. But it was forgotten the second he walked through the door and found Girlie sittin’ on the cot with her back pressed tight against the bulkhead and her legs drawn up against her chest.

“River ya all right?” He recognized the glassy look in her eyes and approached her carefully, but he’d hardly taken a step when she pushed herself up and vaulted into his arms.

“Yes,” her voice was hoarse. “Simon was wrong. I would know, I would remember.”

“Sure ya would, Babe.” He pulled her tightly against him and leaned against the shuttle hatch until he heard the lock engage. “Ya shouldn’t ‘a had ta hear any ‘a that.”

“His fears filled my thoughts and I couldn’t get away from them. Needles in my eyes and mind woke me. They filled me with Simon’s memories.” She clung to him needing him to take away the horrors of what she’d seen, but never experienced. She’d seen Simon’s nightmare as her brother had been picturing it when he’d been talking. She’s seen herself broken, battered and badly used.

“You’re freezin’. Let’s get you under them covers.” He walked her to the cot, and picked her up to lay her down.

“Stay with me!” she demanded, with her arms wrapped around his neck.

“Babe, that way leads ta trouble.” He didn’t pretend to misunderstand her. She wanted him in the cot with her, as much as he wanted to be there. “I ain’t that strong.”

“You are, but you don’t know it.” Tears filled her eyes. He made her much stronger than she really was, as she did him, but since he’d yet to learn that, she let him go. “I will be fine.”

“Don’t lie to me, River I can see right through ya.” He glared wantin’ to do the right thing for once in his life.

“It is not a lie,” she bit her lip unwilling to let him see how badly she needed him. “But the strength of two is far greater than the sum of its parts.”

“I sure hope you’re right, Girlie.” He plopped down on the cot and began undoing the laces on his boots. He figured he didn’t need no lecture on ‘the special hell’, ‘cause this was it. He was livin’ it. Sleepin’ beside a woman he desired more than anythin’ and not doin’ a thing ‘bout it. “Now scoot over so I got some room.”

She sat staring at him. Her mind was still filled with the terrible pictures that had been in Simon’s head. She needed to feel Jayne’s skin against hers badly, but she’d never harm him. “I have no wish to cause you pain,” she whispered.

“Babe, I get the feelin’ we’re both gonna get a mite banged up afore we get this figured out.” He wrapped his arms around her and lay down with her. Her head resting on his left shoulder and his body pressed against hers. “We gotta be careful not to do anything that can’t get undone.”

“So, no guns, knives or air locks if we become angered with each other.” She ran her hand beneath his shirt and along the scar she’d made months ago.

“Something like that,” he gasped. “It feels mighty good when ya touch me like that.”

“I need to feel your skin against mine, to wash away what shouldn’t be in my mind.” She grabbed his right wrist and pressed his hand against her left breast. “Please you have to believe me. No one has ever touched me like this, except you.”

Ren ci de Fo zu,” he growled as he shook with need to feel her softness again with no barrier between ‘em. He pulled his hand out of hers to carefully unzip her sweatshirt. Once he’d slowly pushed both sides of it out of the way, he pulled up her tank top and took a good look at what he’d only been able to feel earlier.

“Touch me,” she begged unable to take her eyes off the hungry expression on his face.

“Like this?” he slid his hand up her torso until his fingers dragged lightly across both nipples. He was rewarded when she gasped and hardened as he grazed her skin

“Uhhemm,” she moaned and nodded.

“Yeah, I guess you did like that,” he muttered. He’d never seen a woman respond that quickly. He wanted ta suck on her somethin’ fierce, but the overpowering urge ta kiss her won out. Covering her right breast and catching its tip between his fingers, so he could play, he moved his body over hers and began kissing his way up her throat.

“Jayne,” she called out his name as her hand moved under the back of his T-shirt. He filled her with sensations and cleared her mind of the terrible pictures she’d woken with. When their lips and tongues met, she floated in her desire for him and his for her that shivered though ever part of her body and mind. She detached from time and let his hands and mouth guide her until she felt as if she were going to explode.

He kissed her mouth and held her tightly to him. He’d been able to keep his earlier amended promise to himself that he’d keep his hands above her waist, but then he felt her hips pushing against his.

“Please…”

“No, Babe,” he groaned and tried to catch his breath as he pulled far enough away from her to look her in the eyes. “That’s one ‘a the undoables. I can take ya there, without doin’ no damage, but the first time ya feel that with a man it’s gotta mean everything, you’re that kind ‘a girl.”

She looked at him a bit confused at what he was talking about, then began to blush. “I’ve never…”

“You’re a piece a work, Girlie,” he caressed her cheek with the back of his hand. “All the more reason it should be special, then.”

“But it would…” She tried to argue, but he’d have none of it.

“No River, you’ve felt ya first desire and had a man touchin’ ya until your body’s ‘bout ready to snap. It clouds ya mind and ya judgment. I won’t do that ta ya or me.” He turned her over but pulled her close to him. “Did I get rid ‘a them nasty thoughts ya brother sent you by accident.”

“Yes,” she sniffed and rubbed her tears against his arm under her cheek.

“He’s been carryin those fears ‘round for a long time. Ya might want ta clear things up with him.”

“You are correct.”

“Ain’t I always,” he kissed the back of her neck as his right hand moved under her top and filled with her breast. He grinned when he heard her moan. Touchin’ her felt so gorramn good, he never wanted ta stop. “Now go to sleep.”

“It will not be easy,” she whispered and he felt every breath against his arm.

“I know, but we’ll make do.” He figured he’d rather spend the night in a constant state of arousal with River snuggled up against, him than to sleep soundly on the cold pallet on the floor.
………………………………………………………….
Jayne carefully removed his hand from the warmth of River’s skin and sat up in bed. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d slept so well. He looked down at the girl for a moment and raised the covers until only her face and hair were showing.

“I’m awake.” She turned and smiled at him.

“Are you okay this morning?” He looked her in the eyes expecting to feel uncomfortable, but he didn’t.

“I’m fine and you?”

“Pretty good.” He wanted to touch her, but didn’t dare. “We can’t do this again, you know?”

“I understand.” River yanked her tank top into place and pushed the covers to the bottom of the bed as she sat up. “We didn’t damage us did we?”

“No, we’re still a team.” He reached for her wildly flying hair and smoothed it behind her ear. If his hand shook a bit when he did it, he didn’t give a gorramn hell, she was the only one around to know and he’d given up hidin’ things from her last night. “Just don’t be surprised if ya end up gettin’ hugged when ya ain’t expectin’ it.”

“I like your hugs.” Her eyes danced and she bit her lip in anticipation. “Does that mean I get to hug you back.”

“You flirtin’ with me, Girlie?” He grinned wondering how much trouble he was really in.

“I am not a flirt. I am a proper young lady.”

“Yeah,” his grin grew so large his dimples showed. “I remember from last night.”

“That was not my fault.” She looked down demurely and picked up his hand. “It was this hand that was making me say and feel things and those lips.” She went up onto her knees so she could run her finger over his mouth.

“Babe,” his voice was gruff and hard as he grabbed her by the shoulders to pull her against him. “Whadda I tell ya ‘bout teasin’ me last night?”

“I…ah…” Her lids snapped open and she could feel his arms quiver as they held her. “I didn’t mean…I didn’t know…I’m sorry.”

“I know Babe, I shouldn’t ‘a snapped like that.” He ran a hand through his hair and took a deep breath. “I started it, I got nothin’ ta complain ‘bout. It ain’t your fault. But I gotta get outta here ‘fore we…” He leaned close and kissed her on the temple and headed for the hatch.

River flopped down on the cot as he closed the door behind him. They were making progress, she smiled to herself. He was coming closer. She’d tried to tell him last night that it was all right, but he hadn’t wanted to listen to her so she hadn’t forced it. But soon, very soon, she hoped.

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Quotes

The moving finger writes: and having writ Moves on. nor all your piety nor wit Shall lure it back to cancal half a line, Nor all your tears wash out a word of it...The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

If I quiet the voices in my head, I would face the day with nothing to write. - Unknown

I must go down to the seas again the lonely sea and sky...J Masefield

Cinderella walked on broken glass,
Sleeping beauty let a whole lifetime pass.
Belle fell in love with a hideous beast,
Jasmine married a common thief.
Ariel walked on land for love and life,
Snow white barely escaped a knife.
It was all about blood, sweat, and tears.
Because love means facing your biggest fears


The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of...French Proverb

I have drempt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after. They've gone through me like wine through water and altered the colour of my mind ...E. Bronte

To love someone deeply gives you strength. Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage...Lao Tzu

It takes chaos to give birth to a dancing star ..F. Nietzsche

How many loved your moments of glad grace, and loved your beauty with love false or true? But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you, and loved the sorrows of your changing face...Yeats

Let us go, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky...T. S. Eliot

In that book which is my memory, on the first page of the chapter, that is the day when I first met you, appears the words, "here begins a new life".
La Vita Nuova

Midnight courage of the heart...Jen Kirkwood

The three o-clock in the morning courage which Bonaparte thought was the rarest...Thoreau

Did you say it? I love you; I don't ever want to live without you; you changed my life. Did you say it?
Make a plan, set a goal, work toward it, but every now and then, look around, drink it in, 'cause this is it. It might all be gone tomorrow. - Meredith Grey

Shakespeare is easy, life is hard...Wheels

Don't try to be a great man, just be a man. Let history make up its own mind...Z.Cochron

I had a job to do and I was unafraid...Jack to John Creighton

For I dipt into the future, as far as the human eye could see. Saw the vision of the world, and the wonders that can be...RWW Hipwell

Without diviation from the norm, progress is impossible...F. Zappa

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea, In a beautiful pea-green boat: They took some honey and plenty of money, Wrapped up in a five-pound note. The Owl looked up to the stars above, and sang to a small guitar...E Lear

Sweet and low, sweet and low, Wind of the western sea, Low, low, breathe and blow, Wind of the western sea! Over the rolling waters go, Come from the dying moon and blow, Blow him again to me;... Tennison

Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn... Keats

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